Emmer said, “The COVID pandemic exacted a drastic toll on America’s youth, robbing them of important milestones and isolating millions of students during a critical point in their development. As a result, our young people are struggling with their mental health, and improvements and increased accessibility to mental health care in schools are badly needed. Student mental health concerns can be addressed, but we must provide adequate resources and clear best practices to give young Americans the support they need.”
Specifically, Emmer asked whether the Department of Education had consulted with other federal agencies, like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on best practices for providing mental health care to students. The letter also included questions on whether the Department of Education has considered factors like COVID-19 and the rise of social media in their guidance in their current grant programs.
While student mental health has been a public health concern for many years, the problem has accelerated due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CDC, 37.1% of high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, and 19.9% had considered suicide.
Unfortunately, as this mental health crisis has worsened, care has become less accessible due to the school counselor shortage. In the 2020 - 2021 school year, there was only one school psychologist for every 1162 students, less than half of the 1:500 ratio recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists. Students suffering from poor mental health are falling behind on schoolwork, becoming isolated from their peers, are subject to worsening physical health, and suffering from depression and anxiety.
Read the letter in full here.